Presuppositions in Interpreting the Bible

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The Tates have served the Lord in Kitale, Kenya since January 2008. Their main ministry is church planting.

October 5, 2022

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ,

I am constantly reminded how important the work I’m privileged to be doing is. At least I think it is important —teaching and training future Kenyan pastors and church leaders. I am currently teaching them how to try and properly interpret the Bible. I know we all get it wrong sometimes, but we want to try and always get it right. And getting it wrong simply because we haven’t been trained to get it right is a shame. If you have young, eager students who desire to learn, want to know God and the Bible, and want to minister truth to God’s people, it is worthwhile to train them.

In my class, we were discussing the problems of bringing our presuppositions to our interpretation of the Bible. Presuppositions are those beliefs we “assume beforehand” are found in the Bible but are not.  We all do it, but we have to try hard not to do it. Some are more serious than others. I wanted them to see that they do it too. The following discussion ensued.

Me:  Who does the Bible say was riding the donkey on the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem? Joseph or Mary?

Student S:  It was Joseph, because he was the man.

Student N:  No way. No man would make his nine months pregnant wife walk while he rode the donkey.

Student S:  I’m pretty sure the Bible says it was Joseph.

Student A:  Every picture I’ve seen has Joseph leading the donkey and Mary riding.

Student S:  But is that what the Bible says?

Student I:  Is it possible the Bible says that both of them were riding the donkey?

Student J:  Poor donkey.

Me:  Ok. Turn to Luke 2 and tell me what the Bible says.


Me:  Exactly.

Then I got them again with the following conversation:

Me:  OK, you guys got this one. How many Magi came to the stable and worshiped the baby Jesus laying in a manger?

Student N (catching on to my tricks): I don’t think the Bible says how many came to the manger. We just know some were there.

Student A:  I’ve heard that there were 3 because there were three gifts given to Jesus. But I don’t know what the Bible says.

Student J:  I’m pretty sure the Bible says there were 3.

Student D:  Teacher, how many does the Bible say were at the manger?

Me:  Zero

Students (All):  Teacher, now we know you are wrong. The Bible tells us they were there.

Me:  Turn to Matthew 2 and tell me how many Magi were at the manger.

Students (All):  It doesn’t tell us how many were at the manger…Wait…it says they came to the HOUSE!

Me:  Exactly.

Finally, I made things a bit more serious.

Me:  According to the Bible, what is speaking in tongues?

Student A:  I’ve heard that it is a prayer language?

Student N:  I’ve been taught that it is a way of communicating with God that you don’t understand.

Student J:  It’s a language unknown by anybody that needs an interpreter.

Me:  That may have been what you were taught, but how does Acts 2:1-13 describe speaking in tongues? It looks to me like the Christians were speaking in their own language but each one in the audience heard the speech in their own language.

Students (All):  Teacher, can this be true?

Me:  The bell has rung, and it is time to go.  Go study the passage and give me your findings tomorrow.

Is all this important? I think it is.

Roger, Julie & Chloe


Roger & Julie Tate
Moffat Bible College
P.O. Box 70
Kijabe, Kenya 00220

For ministry donations:
Pastor George Sledd, Treasurer of BFM
P.O. Box 471280 | Lake Monroe, FL 32747-1280
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